American Wagyu vs. Japanese Wagyu, Dry Aged Beef - What’s the Fuss?

by Bill Flannery

For premium beef, you often hear about Wagyu and dry-aged beef. These are on top of the quality pyramid and are often as expensive as they’re famous. Still, as it often happens with the food we eat, we rarely know precisely what these types of meat are or what makes them so special.

Well, that ends today because we’re exploring American Wagyu and comparing it with its Japanese counterpart. We’re also talking about dry-aged beef and why meat lovers are so crazy about it!


What is Japanese Wagyu?


Wagyu is an umbrella term for four Japanese cattle breeds and means ‘Japanese cow’. They bred these unique breeds to satisfy a common problem in Japan; there’s not enough space to raise cattle! That’s why Wagyu breeds are small, chubby and short-legged — they’re space savers.

Wagyu is raised all around Japan, but the best comes from the Hyōgo Prefecture and is labeled as Kobe. The cattle are fed grain in restricted spaces, allowing it to develop large amounts of intramuscular fat (marbling), making the meat particularly prized. It melts in your mouth!


What is American Wagyu?


American Wagyu is inspired by its Japanese counterpart. Everything from the raising and feeding techniques to the grading process is inspired by the strict Japanese meat production.

Still, not all-American Wagyu is purebred. Some growers breed Japanese cows with the country’s own champion, the famous Aberdeen Angus, for similar results. The American Wagyu Association controls breeding in the country and represents a vibrant community of talented breeders.

When it comes to Wagyu, the breed matters, but raising the cattle with the proper techniques and feed ultimately gives the meat its superior flavor and texture.


What is Dry-Aged Beef?

Dry-aged beef is a technique that has nothing to do with the cattle’s breed. Any primal cut can be dry aged for weeks. In fact, all beef is aged at least for a few days — the meat loses moisture gaining a more concentrated flavor and a firmer texture.

When we talk about dry-aged beef, though, we’re talking about meat aged for more extended periods. Easier said than done; the meat must hang in controlled rooms at the precise temperature and humidity to allow the meat’s natural enzymes to break down the meat as it desiccates. A beneficial mold grows on the meat’s surface, too!

When done right, the result is terrific. The steaks are rich and flavorful, tender and complex. As specialty butchers continue to push the boundaries of aging beef for longer (90 days or more), this is one of the most exciting meat categories in the market.

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